The announcement by Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza – that South Africa will import huge amounts of poultry and eggs to mitigate food shortages – has mystified importers.
Most markets are still closed to South African poultry imports – both chicken and eggs. This is because South African authorities have yet to clear them from Avian Flu (HPAI) embargoes that should have expired months ago.
The only markets still open, are those that mostly carry punitive anti-dumping tariffs. This means, in effect, that South Africa can indeed import more poultry – but at a very high cost.
However, as explained in this story the Department is considering rebates and a suspension of these tariffs.
It should take between three weeks to a month before the imports make a discernible difference in availability.
Most news stories this week predicted rising egg and chicken prices over the next few months as the South African poultry industry copes with Avian Flu. Mervyn Abrahams, of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Forum explains.
In fact, the entire industry is now under severe pressure as the impact of culling takes effect. Unlike the EU and the US, South African farmers are not compensated for losses, which is making it harder to enforce culling.
Many countries are unable to afford compensating farmers, which is why the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) are calling for international funding to assist.
The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) has just published its September Food Inflation Report. Like all such reports, there is good news and bad news.
The good news is that food inflation has been coming down over the last few months (the record highs were linked to severe loadshedding earlier this year), but the bad news is that inflation is on its way up again.
Food and non-alcoholic beverages went up by 8.1% year-on-year, outpacing general inflation that was pegged at 5.4%.
The biggest culprits are sugar, vegetables, diary, eggs, bread, cereals and fish.
The causes are pinned as general global food inflation, our exchange rate, rising fuel and electricity costs and loadshedding.
The BFAP defines a food basket as the amount of healthy food required to feed a family of four over a month. The cost of such a food basket now runs at R3 576.
Another consumer pre-occupation is whether it is safe to eat eggs and chicken while the AI epidemic is raging. The answer is yes.
Avian Flu Barometer
The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters were able to overturn the ITAC findings (that recommended punitive anti-dumping tariffs) this week in court. Unless there is an appeal to this ruling, this means that the ITAC investigation will need to start all over again.
While the Department of Agriculture finds that only a small percentage of our local industry has been affected by avian flu the losses to the industry and the impact on food security is still severe, with current projected losses running at R3 billion.